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Howard Lederer: Lifetime Poker Player and Self-Styled 'Poker Evangelist'
Howard Lederer is a big part of the poker world. A successful player, commentator and integral member of Team Full Tilt, he has certainly put in the work and earned his nickname, "The Professor." I spoke with Lederer as he was leaving the Full Tilt Poker suite and he let me in on the reasons why poker has become such an important part of his life, and consequently, how his life has become such an important part of poker.
Tell me how the WSOP has gone for you so far this year?
Well, I've played in three events, and I haven't made a dinner break yet, so not so well.
Are you happy with the way you've played? Do you blame your own play for your eliminations or was it beyond your control?
I would say that I'm not that happy with my play. I'm lacking some focus at the moment, because I haven't played that much in the last year. I'm not playing poorly by any means, but I don't feel like I'm really zoned in yet. It may take me getting a hold of some chips and sniffing the money and sniffing the final table to really lock in my focus. I think once I do that I'll be ok.
What have you been doing in the past year that's stopped you from playing as much poker as you normally would?
I've been very involved with Full Tilt Poker, and that's really been a full-time job for me. It's really hard for me to do both, and so I've been focusing on making that site the best it can be.
You spoke briefly about the importance of getting a hold of chips. How big a role do you think luck plays in big tournaments like this?
Luck plays a big role. I wouldn't want to put a percentage on it. Over the long run, in multiple events, the best player does well, but luck in the short term is accentuated in poker tournaments. The best player is the lucky player who plays well. But it's certainly over 50% of it.
You're enjoying a lot of success in your career now, but has there ever been a time when you've been hard up because of poker?
Oh yeah, I've gone broke hundreds of times. I mean, I've never owed Vito five points a week on a debt or anything but still. [laughs]
How do think the image of the gambler or poker player has changed in the last decade or so?
Well, certainly there has been a big shift. Five years ago or seven years ago if someone was to ask my father "So what do your kids do?" and he said "Oh, they're professional poker players," he might get a reaction anywhere from "Oh, that's cool" to "Oh, I'm sorry." Now it's more like "Wow, that's impressive." So there has been a big shift in terms of society's attitude towards poker.
Where do you think poker is headed in the future?
I think it's going to mature, maybe get a little more organized, but it's going to grow because it's such a great game. When people get involved in the game, they pick up a lifetime hobby as opposed to just getting into it for a little while. Poker is such a sticky game, and it can fascinate you for such a long time.
One final question: what are you passionate about?
These days it really is poker - growing the game and getting the word out. Letting more and more people understand what a great game it is. I'm a poker player; I have been for 24 years, and I guess I'm a little more of a poker evangelist. But I really believe in the greatness of the game, and I just feel like when people get it, when that light bulb turns on, they get it and they get it for life.
Thanks a lot Howard, and keep spreading the word.